The Foundation’s long-range aim is to foster the growth and development of an authentic American Buddhism that takes its inspiration from the wisdom traditions of the East but adopts new forms, approaches, and applications that are uniquely suited to contemporary American society and culture. By developing and strengthening the emerging community of American Buddhist organizations, we seek to give birth to an American society that reflects the universal Buddhist values of wisdom, compassion, mindfulness, and meditation practice in pursuit of these values.
Dr. Frederick P. Lenz, “Rama” to his students and associates, dedicated his life to the proposition that Westerners in a modern, fast-paced America can achieve spiritual enlightenment, without religious ceremony, and better enjoy the benefits of an American lifestyle by embracing and practicing the principles of Zen Buddhism, meditation, yoga and related Buddhist practices. Rama’s vision is embodied in the Foundation’s core values: to spread as broadly and for so long as possible throughout American society the knowledge and benefits of these disciplines, using where feasible Rama’s own writings, tapes and music as an aid. The challenge for those who carry on in Rama’s name is to translate this ancient body of wisdom, which includes for example Tantric Buddhism, Vajrayana Buddhism and Tibetan yoga, into a system of practice adapted for Americans so they may more easily share in its benefits. The Foundation seeks partners with which to establish such programs and will make grants to other qualified charitable organizations which share the Foundation’s vision, or which offer programs that will promote the Foundation’s goals.
Rama’s funding and his intellectual and artistic works are the building blocks upon which the Foundation has begun; however, the benefits the Foundation may ultimately bestow on American society will be realized only through others who share the dream that Buddhist principles and related disciplines offer an opportunity to further enrich the Western experience with the utilization of beneficial Eastern traditions. By harnessing and focusing the energy of other organizations and individuals similarly disposed, the Foundation seeks to have an effect far beyond its own means, and thus contribute to the establishment of unique American forms of Buddhist understanding and practice.
History and Structure
Through Rama’s generosity and long-time intent, his will provided for finalizing the formation, and funding, of a private foundation as described in the Foundation’s Mission Statement. Aside from a donation to the Audubon Society, most of the Estate’s assets, including all of Dr. Lenz’ intellectual works, were donated to the Lenz Foundation. Founded in 1998, the Lenz Foundation began its formal operations in 2002.
At the request of Dr. Lenz, Norman Marcus and Norman Oberstein, his long-time professional advisors, were placed in charge of the Foundation. Dr. Lenz’ father, the late Frederick Lenz, Jr., joined them on the Board of Directors and has now been replaced by Liz Lewinson, a student of Dr. Lenz. Norman Oberstein now serves a Chief Executive Officer; Liz Lewinson is Vice President and Treasurer.
In addition, the Board of Directors formed an Advisory Committee consisting of Dr. Lenz’ former students and business associates (all practicing Buddhists), together with nationally recognized Buddhist leaders who are in a position to give the Lenz Foundation a broad perspective and assist the Board in reaching out to the broader Buddhist community.
In accordance with Dr. Lenz’ directions, the Lenz Foundation is perpetual, meaning that it is intended to continue in its work indefinitely. Accordingly, it makes grants to other tax-exempt organizations and educational institutions, as well as funding its own programs, to carry out the Foundation’s purposes while at the same time seeking to grow its endowment in order to assure its longevity.
The Lenz Foundation relies primarily on volunteer assistance to carry out its mission (such as with the help of its Advisory Committee) and relies on investment revenue, individual donations and bequests as its primary means of generating income and growth. The Foundation has also received donations via a matching fund campaign sponsored and promoted by independent groups of Dr. Lenz’ students in conjunction with the Rama Meditation Society, which distributes gratis to the public the teachings of Dr. Lenz as well as his music.
The Frederick P. Lenz Foundation for American Buddhism, along with six other Buddhist foundations was highlighted in Buddhadharma: The Practitioner's Quarterly
The article states: “Today in the West, there is a level of outreach, networking and fundraising required of monasteries, practitioners, and organizations to survive-let alone thrive. Yet Buddhist practitioners and organizations operate without these kinds of financial scaffolding. It is here that the influential role of foundations comes into play. While individual donors are significant-the practice of dana remains fundamental to Buddhist practice-various foundations have also taken up an important role and may offer part of the solution. Whether it is sponsoring long-term contemplative study or showcasing never-before-seen Tibetan art, foundations such as the ones profiled below propel the integration of Buddhism in the West Forward.”